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NextD Journal RERETHINKING DESIGN

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Design as Glue: Understanding the Stanford D. School

David Kelley Co-Founder, Stanford Institute of Design, Stanford University Founder, Chairman, IDEO

GK VanPatter Co-Founder, NextDesign Leadership Institute Co-Founder, Humantific  Making Sense of Cross-Disciplinary Innovation

NextDesign Leadership Institute DEFUZZ THE FUTURE! www.nextd.org Follow NextD Journal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nextd Copyright © 2005 NextDesign Leadership Institute. All Rights Reserved. NextD Journal may be quoted freely with proper reference credit. If you wish to repost, reproduce or retransmit any of this text for commercial use please send a copyright permission request to journal@nextd.org


NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 21

Design as Glue

1 GK VanPatter: Welcome, David. I am delighted to finally begin this conversation as it has taken some time to get us both together virtually. I see that the d.school has launched a new web site, and it looks like you now have an exciting new physical facility up and running on the Stanford campus. It appears that Stanford is turning the corner into a new design era. How are you feeling about it all? David Kelley: I am thrilled with the progress we have made in launching the Institute of Design at Stanford, which we informally call the “d.school.� This is the third year that we have taught classes in this new way. We have students from several fields of study, as well as faculty from different schools and departments. For any given project, multidisciplinary teams are formed that have a cross-section of students drawn from engineering, education, humanities, business and/or medicine. This innovative approach has allowed us to work on incredibly interesting projects. This year, we offered a unique class on how design can enrich the lives of autistic children and another using design to help subsistence farmers in India collect and distribute water to irrigate their backyard farms. Our industry project this year was with Electronic Arts on shaping the future of gaming. We are creating additional projects on sustainability, K-12 education, and super-low cost design for the developing world. The really exciting aspect of teaching d.school classes is how much the students resonate with the experience. When we did group projects before, everyone was from the same discipline and therefore had a similar approach to the problems presented. In d.school design classes, each student has something different to offer their team and seems to be thrilled that they can contribute in unique ways while leveraging the broader scope of their classmates. One of the challenges is to get the faculty to collaborate as easily as the students do! We have been lucky so far and are getting along famously.

2 GK VanPatter: It is unusual that you would launch the d.school site so long after you started. Did the d.school soft launch on purpose . . . by design? When did you acquire your new facilities? David Kelley: I am sorry about the confusion. The product design program I have taught in at Stanford for many years was started in 1958 by John Arnold and my mentor, Bob McKim. Its focus has been on engineering-based creativity. This program offers a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree in Engineering and will continue even after the new program comes up to full speed. Within the last few years, I have taken over the existing program and have expanded the curriculum to also include an initiative we are calling the d.school. Instead of offering a specific degree, the d.school provides classes that draw students from throughout the University and gives them empathy for design and the design process – in addition to their depth of knowledge in their degree field.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 21

Design as Glue

We began teaching these kinds of human-centered design classes where students and faculty from several different disciplines work together on projects. These multidisciplinary, socially relevant classes make up an evolving program that is still in its infancy. So in some sense it is a soft start. We are in a temporary space and just getting going, but it feels a lot like what I hope the culture will feel like in the future -- a growing space that evolves with the needs of the students and the marketplace. The University has given us a large building and the ability to hire more faculty, so we will continue to build on this prototype. We believe that in two to three years we will be operating at full speed.

3 GK VanPatter: Can you give us a sense of your drivers? What was it that made you think this was the time to expand the program and create the d.school initiative? David Kelley: One of the main drivers was the fact that there is a trend in higher education to value a multidisciplinary approach, in addition to the traditional focus of building a depth of knowledge in one particular area. So we approached Stanford with the concept that makes design the glue that can hold different disciplines together and uses design thinking as the methodology. Traditionally, design teams were made up of the same discipline, so they all knew the same things. When you put together a multidisciplinary approach, it allows the individual student to “show off” because they can do things that no other person on the team can do. For example, an engineer develops a schematic, a business student writes a business plan, and a social scientist interviews consumers. Students “own” all of the knowledge in their various disciplines which makes for very interesting design classes. The other important driver is that businesses today are looking for ways to become more innovative. Corporations are expecting that revenues will come primarily from new innovations, rather than simply sprucing up existing products and services. What we’ve learned from companies is that they’re looking for students to be able to come out and help them with their innovation strategy. Our goal at the d.school is to train students to be innovators.

4 GK VanPatter: The structure that you describe where students from various faculties take courses in your program seems to be not so different from what most universities offer as so-called electives. How does the d.school model differ? David Kelley: To me, “electives” are classes that students take outside their major as a point of exploration. At the d.school, we’re teaching the classes in a different way. Our whole objective is to have individuals bring the knowledge from their core discipline, share and cross-pollinate, and build empathy for design and the design process. In any given class, we will have professors from several different schools. When students graduate, they will fulfill all the requirements of their particular degree. In addition to their major, we hope to give them an experience that will be similar to a minor in design thinking and methodology.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 21

Design as Glue

5 GK VanPatter: I noticed that in your description of the d.school’s intent you used the term “empathy.” You said “the d.school . . . provides classes that draw students from throughout the University and gives them empathy for design and the design process.” I am curious to know if, from your perspective, this is different than teaching those students coming in from other departments how to be designers. Is everyone a designer at the d.school? David Kelley: This is a difficult question. It depends on what you mean by a “designer.” Everyone who graduates from the d.school will have empathy for design, be capable of design thinking, and will have developed a personal design methodology. But these students won’t necessarily be what people typically think of as designers. Many people think designers have an art-based education. This program will draw people from all disciplines and teach them about design. We hope that this program will change how people view design. What they learn is a new way of thinking and a new way of solving interesting, challenging problems. The d.school will provide students with design empathy in two ways: empathy for other disciplines and empathy for the person who will benefit from the product, service or environment they are designing for them.

6 GK VanPatter: Much of the traditional design industry press is focused on a very small subset of the design field. We know that today design reaches into many realms beyond that present narrow focus. How does the d.school define the fields and the activity of design? David Kelley: I’d like to think we’re moving into a post-disciplinary period. Design is a way of thinking. I’d like students graduating from d.school to be experts in methodology and apply it to the real world. Typically, when people think about designers, they think of graphic designers, industrial designers, interior designers, and/or landscape designers. We would like people also to understand the value of design thinking. The d.school strives to elevate design to a point where academia and industry use it as a critical approach to innovation. The feedback we have received from organizations has shown us that as companies become more design sensitive, their ability to innovate routinely improves and the result is greater commercial success.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 21

Design as Glue

7 GK VanPatter: I am particularly interested in your comments regarding a reconstructed form of design being “the glue that can hold different disciplines together.” We just returned from a design/business conference where many people, in particular the new business press, seemed to be touting the rise of so-called “right brain thinking” as the new, undiscovered country for business (evidently for business journalism as well). Although many designers view this shift as a great opportunity for design, this “right now rules” orientation would seem to be very different from the “glue” role that you referred to. The d.school and NextD might be aligned here on this “glue” issue, but I am not exactly sure. From our perspective, at NextD a reconstructed design – design as “glue” – has to be about more than the shifting of value from left to right. From experience we know what happens to innovation when one or the other dominates organizational cultures. Understanding that the innovation process itself is a combination of right and left brain, what we teach at NextD is how a reconstructed form of design leadership can include acting as the “glue” – the bridge, facilitator, protector, explainer, valuer, modeler, orchestrator, and advocate of all thinking types. Much of what we do as designers is to extend/foster/accelerate thinking and innovation in one form or another. From our perspective next design leadership is not about the dominance of right over left or left over right, but rather the higher order orchestration of whole brain innovation. Next generation design leaders become architects capable of deliberately constructing diverse, inclusive, whole brain innovation rather than advocates of right brain thinking. While the business press has considerable appetite for the next new angle to write about for six months, we hope that designers participating in the reinvention of design will be wiser. Let’s do this in a way that is sustainable. I know that you as Chairman of IDEO know a thing or two about business sustainability. As a veteran of this business, I am certain that you have seen many cycles come and go. I would be interested in your point of view of the “design as glue” issue. Do you make a distinction between the present focus of the new business press on right brain thinking and your point of view? When you say that design is the “glue,” what exactly does that mean and how does design accomplish that glue or bridge-making role in the d.school model? David Kelley: The concept of multidisciplinary teams has been around for a long time. During the re-engineering movement, teams were required to have representatives from various disciplines. The challenge was that the people coming from different disciplines by definition had different goals. As I go around the country talking to universities, I see that the multidisciplinary approach is difficult now for the same reasons that it was difficult then. Universities think it’s a good idea to put different geniuses from various departments together, but they get together in a room, look at each other and don’t know what to do next. The design methodology is mostly common sense and non-threatening. Doing research, observing consumers, building prototypes and iterating again and again seems to work. Page 5 of 9


NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 21

Design as Glue

We’ve found that everyone is willing to sign up for this methodology as a way of trying to make a multidisciplinary approach work. Designers are experts in the process of innovation and design thinking. Over the years, we’ve been refining this with clients and organizations to determine how to get over the barriers to innovation. The designers, with their natural life’s work being design methodology, make particularly good team members and supply the “glue” that we refer to here. They can focus on making the process and results innovative because they don’t have any particular discipline or agenda they’re trying to push. At the d.school at Stanford, we’ll have a design thinker on every single team so that there’s someone excited about making sure that our solutions are innovative and moving the team forward.

8 GK VanPatter: Let’s talk more about this “design thinker” thing as it seems to be a little slippery to grab hold of. In the d.school model, when you refer to design thinkers, are you talking about folks who are masters of the design process that you described above (“Doing research, observing consumers, building prototypes and iterating again and again.”)? In your model, do design thinkers bring those skills to situations where innovation is the goal? Is this what you mean when you say design is a “critical approach to innovation”? David Kelley: Our goal at the Stanford d.school is for students from all disciplines to acquire design thinking skills – in addition to their already existing analytical skills. We’re doing this by teaching them the design process and having them take on projects using design methodology. When I refer to design thinkers, I’m referring to individuals who have mastered the design process and are applying that methodology with the goal of becoming more innovative and better need identifiers and problem solvers. For many years, the people who were most adept at this kind of thinking were conventionally called designers. We’re now taking on projects where we’re seeing what design thinking can offer. We’ve seen what this approach can do to make life easier for autistic children or add to the experience of going to a football game or improve K-12 education. It’s about looking at challenges and asking how we can enhance this product, experience or service by applying design thinking as the driving force for innovation in a particular area. Design methodology (as described in your question) is very important to the designer in the same way that writing equations or developing a detailed outline is for the analytical thinker. I view design methodology as one aspect and benefit of design thinking. Design thinking is an overall approach to innovation. Can anyone be a design thinker? Yes, it’s not just for “designers” in the traditional sense of the word. It is unique and powerful because it’s not content specific. It is a way of taking risks and making creative leaps. It is the perfect complement to analytical thinking. Design thinking is based on insight, experimentation, and prototyping, while analytical thinking is data and planning based. By applying both design and analytical thinking together, the results are very different kinds of innovation.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 21

Design as Glue

In addition to the d.school, people come to Stanford for our two-year Master’s degree program in product design. Students come with all kinds of backgrounds and approaches to innovation. It is a pivotal experience where they can make life changes. One of the most rewarding things about my work at Stanford is to see people completely change their approach by taking the time and immersing themselves in the university environment. I’ve seen this specifically in people who want to be more creative in how they approach their particular discipline. They come to our Master’s program or the d.school to acquire design thinking skills as a way to accomplish that goal.

9 GK VanPatter: As we begin landing this plane, I would like to go a little deeper on one issue, which seems to be central to this conversation. Thanks for your patience. Our readers will appreciate your perspective, I’m sure. So far in this conversation you have not made any reference to behavior. You did make reference to “observing consumers” and by that I assume you mean their behavior but I am wondering if there are other behavior dimensions to what students learn at d.school. Earlier you said: “We’ve found that everyone is willing to sign up for this methodology as a way of trying to make a multidisciplinary approach work.” You and I both know that learning ethnography for example, as useful as it is, will not help one learn how to communicate, interact and solve problems with other disciplines. Observing user behavior is what we call an outbound project skill. In contrast enhancing the project teams behavior is what we call inbound skill. Mastering ethnography will have little impact on the day-to-day dynamics of a cross-disciplinary team. As you well know, many disciplines inside and outside of design have been taught to lead with criticism and judgment. This presents enormous challenges to organizational innovation building. Whether we like it or not, this is the deeply engrained default behavior of Western business culture. It is a default that undermines and erodes the ability to innovate in many organizations today. I am sure we are all familiar with the idea skeet-shoot model that occurs in many meetings and organizational settings. At NextD, a significant part of learning cross-disciplinary innovation methodology involves learning inbound skills, learning behaviors that are quite different than the default behaviors of the analytic-based tribes and even the old traditional design ways. This learning is connected to, but quite different from, just learning outbound design methods such as ethnography. Working with organizations in our Humantific practice, we could not do what we do with just outbound project skills alone. Apart from the out-bound design methods such as ethnography, does the d.school teach its students how to recognize, grapple with and change the deeply ingrained antiinnovation default behaviors of adults? Are specific cross-disciplinary dynamics skills taught as part of innovation leadership mastery? Or is it expected that students learn these skills simply by doing projects?

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 21

Design as Glue

David Kelley: Whereas we strongly believe that learning by doing with techniques such as video ethnography are absolutely the best way to learn, we do think that the hands-on learning can be enhanced with more conventional content and skills along with learning new behaviors. Specifically, we tend to use our social scientists on the faculty to help with these behavioral changes. Robert Sutton, a Ph.D. in organizational behavior, is a professor on our core faculty of the d.school. He helps in a variety of ways with the students. One of the first things that he does for the students before we send them out into the world is to help them develop a language for possible dysfunctional behaviors that they will experience in their group. For example, he defines “bullies” and “deadbeats.” Then, when students are confronted with such behavior in their groups, they find it easy to discuss the disruptive behavior without making it too personal. This has worked extremely well in making the groups more effective. Now, when a student is acting in a way that is unpleasant to other members in the group, they can discuss their problems easily by simply asking, “Are you being a bully here?” Somehow, by assigning a label, this is not as confrontational or damaging to the group dynamic because their training and preparation enabled them to work through their differences. Another important skill that we teach through practice is what we call deferring judgment. We have all witnessed these situations in big companies, small companies, and generally in life. When someone brings up their new idea, everyone seems to be more than willing to tell that person what’s wrong with the idea. If this happens regularly, it’s a definite deterrent to building an innovative culture. That’s why we give students extensive practice in deferring judgment. When someone brings up an idea and another student thinks of all the things that are wrong with the idea, we train them to hold back from speaking their negative thoughts. Instead, we ask the critical student to think how to improve the first idea – based on their insight about what’s wrong with it – and come up with a new idea that takes into account the deficiency that they have identified. Then, when the critical student speaks out, the discussion is about a new idea built on the other student’s first idea, improving it based on insight about what was lacking. This goes a long way toward making a culture that can routinely come up with better and better ideas. In addition, we offer classes that help students develop new behaviors and skills such as interviewing and negotiation techniques.

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NextD Journal I ReReThinking Design Conversation 21

Design as Glue

10 GK VanPatter: There is so much more that we could talk about regarding the implications of an emerging post-disciplinary era. I hope we can do chapter two of this conversation some time, David. Last question in two parts: As you look ahead to the future, what do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for graduate and post-graduate design education institutions? When you look ahead five or ten years, where are graduates of the d.school, and what kinds of activities are they engaged in? David Kelley: The greatest challenge for integrating design thinking into higher education is that it requires a change allowing integrative thinkers and generalists to have the same status on the faculty as the deep thinking analytical research faculty. In addition, students with a similar bias need to be equally valued. We call these people “T-Shaped,” meaning that they have both depth (the vertical portion of the T) and broad empathy (the horizontal portion of the T). My goal for the d.school is that, in years to come, when alumni are interviewing for jobs and potential employers see that they have an M.S. in Engineering, an M.B.A., or a Masters in Education – along with the design certificate – that it will mean something to these employers. Our hope is that they will realize that in addition to having the analytical skills of their chosen field, these students are also design and integrative thinkers and, therefore, will provide greater value to their organizations. By adopting this curriculum at Stanford, my hope is that other educational institutions will pick up on this point of view and develop it in their own unique ways so that this point of view will be highly valued in this country and in the rest of the world. I see design thinking as a way of living, and so I hope that the graduates of design programs will improve their lives and the lives of others by being leading innovators. I certainly see them impacting the business world, the academic world, and beyond.

NextD Journal RERETHINKING DESIGN

NextDesign Leadership Institute DEFUZZ THE FUTURE! www.nextd.org Questions: Please direct all questions to journal@nextd.org Follow NextD Journal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nextd

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Design as Glue: Understanding the Stanford D. School  

NextD Journal | ReRethinking Design. GK VanPatter in conversation with David Kelley. Conversation 21, Design as Glue: Understanding the Stan...

Design as Glue: Understanding the Stanford D. School  

NextD Journal | ReRethinking Design. GK VanPatter in conversation with David Kelley. Conversation 21, Design as Glue: Understanding the Stan...

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